Children: Ignoring a Child Arrangement Order
Enforcement of Child Arrangements Order specifying contact arrangements is becoming a common place issue seen daily by the Family Courts post the making of the Child Arrangements Order. All too often Child Arrangement Orders are made by the Court, in the good faith that both parents will abide by the Order, but in practice this does not happen.
Once a Child Arrangement Order specifying contact arrangement is made by the Court, if a parent does not comply with the terms of the Order, there are steps that can be taken to enforce the contact with the child(ren). All Child Arrangement Orders are made with a warning at the bottom of them setting out what could happen if both parties do not comply with the terms of the Order.
The initial steps to be taken are to try to get the other parent to accept that they must comply with the terms of the Order. This is often done via written communication, such as a letter or can even be via text messages/WhatApps. If this does not help to rectify the disagreement, the next step is to obtain legal advice.
What steps can be taken?
It is always worth obtaining legal advice when you feel that a Child Arrangements Order is not being adhered to. There are a number of ways a resolution can be found, such as a letter sent by a solicitor to the parent not acting in accordance with the Order to gently remind them that the specified contact agreement, as set out in the terms of the Order, are to be complied with.
If this does not work, then an application can be made to Court to seek enforcement. The matter will be listed for a hearing for the Judge to determine the breach of the Order and a firm warning will be provided to the side not complying. Often, the Judge will express firmly to the parents that the Order is to be complied with and a further hearing date will be set to assess if contact has taken place in the interim as per the Order. In certain circumstances the Court may determine that the party who is not complying with the Order needs to pay the legal costs due to their non-compliance. The Court will see if agreement can be reached on contact arrangements.
If there continues to be a breach, then the Court has the power to make an enforcement Order imposing unpaid work requirements (community service) on the party not complying and can impose financial penalties on them also. Breaching the Child Arrangements Order is also deemed to be contempt of Court and can be punishable by way of financial penalty or imprisonment!
The Court will always take into account the welfare of the child who is the subject of the Order when making any enforcement Order.
My circumstances have changed since the Order was made – what can I do to change my contact?
When a Child Arrangements Order is made setting out what contact should be held, with who and when, it is not a suggestion as to what the contact should be, it is a legal requirement to be upheld. If a parent(s) want to vary the terms of the Order, and they agree upon the changes, this can be submitted to Court via a Consent Order. If there is disagreement then an application will need to be made to Court to vary the terms of the Order.
Charley Kelly, Family Law Solicitor
Lawson-West Solicitors, Leicester
If you are having difficulties with contact not taking place as it should, or your circumstances have changed and you need the Order amended to reflect this, please get in touch with one of the excellent family team here at Lawson-West who will be happy to help. The main office telephone number is 0116 212 1000.